tier: the battle for
Rich Linde, 1 August 2009
The Dawgs got no respect in the Pac-10
media poll (first place votes in parenthesis) that took place in Los
Angeles last Thursday. The middle of the pack is in bold.
Table 1. These pollsters are
really imaginative. Note last year's finish: (1) The first four teams; (2)
the next four; and (3) the last two. Compare these groupings (or 3
tiers) with the
|Media poll for 2009
||Conference finish in 2008
1. USC (28)... 316
||1. USC, 8-1
2. California (3)... 277
||2. Oregon, 7-2
3. Oregon (1)... 250
||2. Oregon State, 7-2
4. Oregon State... 216
||4. California, 6-3
5. Arizona State... 155
||5. Arizona, 5-4
6. Stanford... 150
||6. Stanford, 4-5
7. UCLA... 145
||6. Arizona State, 4-5
8. Arizona... 142
||8. UCLA, 3-6
9. Washington... 74
||9. Washington State, 1-8
10. Washington State... 35
||10. Washington, 0-9
Okay, okay, I'll go along with the top four teams,
that is, the first tier.
USC has Joe McKnight and an experienced OL; Cal has all-every thing
Jahvid Best, arguably the best runner in the country; Oregon returns Jeremiah Masoli
and its inexorable spread; and OSU has the Rogers'
brothers and an overachieving coach.
top four teams and the two last place teams were pretty much agreed upon
by these self-anointed pollsters of prevailing wisdom. At least these
prognosticators aren’t part
of the eastern mafia, although ESPN's Ted Miller, a former UW beat
writer, went to school at
Richmond and once worked in SEC country. Most of these gurus think they are a physical
dimension away (11 dimensions in String Theory now?) from explaining the
Big Bang to us mere mortals. ;-) That's a photo of Gil Dobie on the
left, not Miller.
The media's penultimate four spots
(the four teams just above the last two) are
up for grabs. Take a look at the points separating Arizona State,
Stanford, UCLA and Arizona, i.e., 142 to 155, a 13 point spread. It’s
anybody’s guess as to how these teams will finish relative to one
Table 2. The battle for
fifth place and the Huskies
What they need to do to break into the top five
Carpenter; OL needs improvement
Pass the ball better and defend the pass better. Redshirt
freshman QB Andrew Luck (6-4, 225) needs to come up to speed pronto.
Get more efficiency at QB, improve its OL, and make use of
a talented recruiting class.
Replace Willie Tuitama
and fully utilize Gronkowski.
What the Huskies must do to beat these four teams
Run the ball and stop
the run against the above.
"It’s going to be a physical conference,”
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has been quoted as saying. “You
better be ready to stop the running game. The team that wins the
conference championship will be strong, tough guys.”
Washington trails Arizona by 68 points
and isn’t in contention for consideration as a member of the second tier, that is,
being one of the four teams jockeying for one of the conference’s top-five spots.
Last season, I thought Washington had
a chance to break into the middle of the pack and grab a top-five slot,
but that was before QB Jake Locker broke his thumb.
Losing Locker, as well as having a
lame duck coach, was a bogie too much for the Dawgs to obliterate. But,
egad, a 0-12 season?
With a healthy Locker and some luck the Huskies
might have beaten BYU, Stanford, WSU and ASU last season. “If ifs and
buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas”
How did the Huskies perform
last season against this season's second tier teams as projected by the
-- The Huskies offense came a cropper
against UCLA (135 net yards, TOP=23:08).
-- They trailed ASU by four points
going into the fourth quarter and then the defense ran out of gas
because of the Huskies’ anemic running game (52 net yards).
-- Against Arizona, TE Rob Gronkowski (6-foot-6, 250) -- a shoo-in for the next
level, ugh, make that Groan-kowski from the Dawgs' standpoint -- caught
5 balls for 109 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Huskies were never in the
game and posted just 63 net yards rushing.
-- Washington lost to Stanford by a
touchdown last season. Locker broke his thumb in the second quarter of
that game, in a game – the fourth of the season -- the Huskies might
have won it if Jake hadn’t been lost. As it turned out, he was lost for
the rest of the season. The Dawgs rushed for 140 yards against the
Card's 244 yards.
Last season in conference play,
Arizona finished in fifth place. ASU and Stanford were tied for sixth
and UCLA finished in eighth place ahead of WSU and UW. (See Table 1).
Arizona and ASU were both 2-1 in the second-tier matchups, but Arizona
beat ASU to claim the second-tier championship.
Table 3. Arizona, the
second-tier champion in 2008
Do the Huskies have a chance to be
competitive against the
media's second-tier teams this year? The smart money
says no, but my heart says yes.
Beating each team in the
penultimate tier is incumbent on the following:
-- The Huskies need to stay relatively
healthy – including Locker, of course -- through their first five games,
which includes three physical teams: LSU, USC and Notre Dame. The Dawgs
are "shorthanded" because of two weak transitional recruiting classes
(that is, in 2005 and 2009). If you're into bottom lines, the phrase
"lacking depth" sums up the Huskies in a nutshell.
-- The Huskies need to run the ball
and stop the run against each of them. Almost too
clichéd to say, ahem.
The Huskies have the most
athletic quarterback in the conference. It would be a shame not to fully
exploit his talents?
Why did the Huskies hire a pro-set
coach and schedule LSU? (Editor's note: Yeah,
Mal, why don't you ask 'Bayou Scott'?) Against these four teams, the Huskies
may need to revert back to the spread option at times. (Editor's
note: Yeah, Mal, tell that to Sark!). That is, eat some
crow if necessary. Locker is a prototype quarterback made for the spread
option. The spread helps mask
weaknesses in the offensive line -- which could be this season's Achilles heel for the Dawgs. If the Huskies can move the ball using the pro-set,
reverting back to the
spread becomes a moot point, except, possibly, for the element of
If the Huskies beat Idaho
and WSU, as they are currently favored to do, and post wins against each
of second-tier teams, they'll go to a bowl. The
odds are long against them, almost as long as Dobie having taken on Dietz in Pullman.
Games against Stanford, ASU
and UCLA are on the road; whereas, the Huskies have a good chance to
beat Arizona at Husky Stadium. Copping an upset victory over one of the
first-tier teams, along with a win over Arizona, and the Huskies could meet their over and
under, which the odds makers say is four. This assumes they beat Idaho
Anyway, I'm going to fire my
Gil Dobie (1908-1916, 58-0-3) didn't want to play WSU anywhere but in
Seattle. When WSU balked after doing so for four straight seasons, the
series took a two-year break in 1915 and 1916.
It's a shame Gil Dobie, photo above, didn't clean William "Lone Star"
Dietz's clock back in 1915 and end his
quest for the Rose Bowl. Instead, Washington State beat Brown in the
1916 Rose Bowl and laid claim to the mythical national championship -- a sad happening, indeed. ;-)